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Nearby schools Norfolk State, ODU far apart on desire to play crosstown rivalry game

Posted at 11:27 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 23:49:57-05

NORFOLK, Va. - In sports, prior to a game - big or small, media members and fans are often served a heavy dose of coaching cliches. Why? Neither bench boss wants to say anything to ruffle the feathers of the other team. It's often called 'coachspeak'.

For locals in coastal Virginia, coachspeak is akin to a Friday afternoon backup on the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT): it's expected, but still annoying. However, here in The 757, while we still have to deal with tunnel traffic, we are given a break on the coachspeak - at least when it comes to the Norfolk State/Old Dominion men's basketball rivalry.

Wednesday night, the two teams face-off for the first time since 2017 - and the first time on NSU's campus since 1969.

Prior to the last meeting between ODU and NSU at Scope Arena on December 22, 2017, Monarchs head coach Jeff Jones admitted he had no interest in playing the Spartans in the future. "There are a lot of politics that go into it, and there are a number of people that wanted to have this game happen," Jeff Jones said. "I think it's a good thing, but I don't see this being something we'll continue in the future. In looking at our scheduling needs, this is a game that's great to play - but I'm not sure it fits exactly what we're trying to do - especially playing at a neutral site rather than having a home game."

In response to those comments, NSU head coach Robert Jones called it "ridiculous" that the crosstown rivals do not play annually.

The lone reason Norfolk State and Old Dominion are playing this season is due to COVID-19 wreaking havoc on teams' original schedules. Long trips, especially via airplane (for safety and budgetary reasons), are eliminated.

"It wouldn't have happened if not for COVID-19," Jeff Jones admitted last month. "These are the circumstances. Rob and I talked, and we felt it was a good thing for both schools."

However, Robert Jones still wants more dates with the Monarchs.

"The term hasn't changed: I still think it is ridiculous we don't play more often," NSU's Jones told reporters via Zoom press conference this week. "We're right there. I know you could get into the fact they have everything to lose and we have everything to gain. But, we're not playing Duke."

ODU's Jones is sticking to his reasons for avoiding scheduling the Spartans.

"There's been some of our fans that bemoan the fact some of the in-state Power Five conference schools won't play us," Jeff Jones said Tuesday. "My response to that is: they have to do what's best for them. We don't owe it to anybody - the same way UVA and Virginia Tech don't owe it to us. I'm not going there. I'm tired of it. We want to play a basketball game against a quality opponent [Wednesday] night."

The Spartans and Monarchs tip-off at 8 p.m. Wednesday inside Joe Echols Hall. The game will be broadcast LIVE on WGNT and streamed at wtkr.com.